She is one of the few women who participate in patrols and operations in South LA who seek to reduce the businesses that profit from the illegal sale of drugs

Romina Torres remembers vividly when she watched the movie The Fugitive as a child, a film starring Harrison Ford where she plays the role of a doctor accused of murder who after fleeing is relentlessly searched by the U.S. federal agency. Marshals

Although it sounds unusual, this was the trigger that would motivate the little girl – then only 7 years old – to choose her future. She had already decided to be a law enforcement officer.

“She was a girl and always talked about it. My mother said: ‘It will happen to her… (later) she is going to want to be something else,’ ”Torres said with a smile since she never changed her mind about her career.

For eight years, Torres has been working for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and is assigned to the Anti-Narcotics Unit at Station 77th — considered one of the most dangerous venues in the entire agency for its high number of gangs and crime.

The Narcotics Enforcement Unit is responsible for investigating and testing not only people but also businesses that profit from the illegal sale of drugs.

This allows to stop the increase in crime in nearby neighborhoods. Today, Agent Torres, 31, is part of this effort.

A group of agents tries to break a lock that was blocking the entrance to the dispensary. / photo: Aurelia Ventura

He studied at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB) while working in the Arcadia police but doing paperwork.

“There I lived a lot with the police and they recommended that I go to the Police Department (as an agent) to see if I liked it,” said the Mexican-born girl.

So after obtaining his degree in criminal justice and Spanish at CSUSB, he applied for admission to the police academy. Six months later it was accepted in the LAPD.

He added that his mother recently told him that he had already resigned to see her in his career. "He only tells me that I am the one who took his gray hair," said the agent with an air of pride.

Without fear of his profession

Agent Torres prepared early this Friday to lead the operation that began at noon.

Protected with a case and a bulletproof vest, where it carries cartridges, razor and radio; In addition to a belt, in which he carries handcuffs, weapon and plaque, he proceeded with the mission. The agent confessed all that equipment he carries on him adds about 20 pounds to his weight.

Upon arriving at the indicated area in South Los Angeles, almost a dozen cars of law enforcement surrounded an illegal marijuana dispensary.

Commanding was Agent Torres, who instructed about twenty uniformed and civilians – which included members of the police as well as other agencies such as the Department of Electricity, the Department of Taxation and the Department of Tobacco, among others.

And he assures that since the beginning of an operation, there is no time for doubts or fears.

While an agent spoke on the loudspeaker to identify with the individuals who were in the dispensary, Torres and other agents cut a padlock to open the metal door and remove those involved faster – who were inside selling or buying marijuana.

“When we got (to the dispensary) one of the doors was secured and we had to force it to enter,” said Agent Torres.

Within the illegal place were found 22 people who were arrested and who initially refused to betray each other.

Agent Romina Torres has been in the LAPD Police Department for eight years. / photo: Aurelia Ventura.

Torres said that this is very common in searches as the same clients avoid giving information about another because they fear being victims of gangs – who usually supervise dispensaries.

"When you talk to them (the detainees) they always tell you that they have been in the clinic for five minutes, that they do not know the people or did not see who attended them or that they just went to work that same day," Torres said.

Similarly, he added that while doing his job in the operation, his energy changes completely. "You are not afraid of things sometimes," he acknowledged. "Already when you leave work you start thinking and say: 'Something bad could have happened to me', then you worry … But when you are at work you don't have time to be afraid."

He adds that in the Anti-Narcotics Unit, leadership work rotates among team members as it involves several steps.

The assigned leader becomes the principal investigator to monitor and conduct the search warrant from start to finish.

This includes conducting interviews with the accused, obtaining evidence, making reports of arrests and confiscated property, and presenting all evidence to the judge.

"That day (the leader) gives the informative report and takes care of all the tactics of the day," Torres said.

Detective Nick Jorge Vascones III, supervisor of the Anti-Narcotics Unit of Station 77th of the LAPD, said the team has been doing a job

He explained that at the beginning of 2019, they identified 80 illegal dispensaries in the area supervised by the 77th station and that they have now been reduced to 30. However, the work is not finished. "In this area we only have three legal marijuana dispensaries."

Detective Nick Jorge Vascones III. / photo: Aurelia Ventura.

He also said that there are many reasons to remove illegal dispensaries, starting with the harmful products sold.

"Right now we are finding that marijuana has pesticides and fentanyl and that is very dangerous," said Vascones III and said that these components can cause death.

Law enforcement officials assume that the reason that marijuana now has those chemicals is due to high demand.

“Maybe they are growing it in a place that is not sanitary and they do it very quickly to make money and they throw pesticides,” said Vascones III. "Then people buy and don't know what they are getting into."

However, the detective also said that it is sometimes difficult for the client to know the difference between a legal and illegal dispensary. "Because it's a business with the sign and they don't know the truth."

Agents record the place where marijuana was found.

One less in the streets

At the end of yesterday's search, agent Torres said he felt good about finishing the day with good results.

"I like to know that we can all make a change, like the other time a boy who went to (a dispensary) to hide a gun … If we close these places they will not have anywhere to run," he said.

He said he enjoys his work very much and motivated other women who are considering him to do so, as long as this is his passion.

“It has to be born to you. It is not something that you are going to practice and you will like it later. You have to love your job because men want you to do the same as they do because they are paying you the same and you are in a career that is 80% men, ”said Agent Torres.

"Like today I had to break the door … I was ready, I exercise and I can do everything."

He added that in the future when he gets to have his family, he may retire from this job that is more dangerous in the streets and will opt for a position “behind a desk” but always in the Police Department.


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